In David Niven's autobiography, "The Moons a Balloon," he recounts that when asked to write down his three preferred choices of regiment at Sandhurst, he finished with the third being, "anywhere but the Highland Light Infantry." Of course, some wit commissioned him into the HLI. (The HLI incidentally amalgamated with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1959 to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers).
This of course was completely unknown to me when, some 31 years ago I found myself in the adjutants office at the Scottish Infantry Depot having succeeded in blowing the Commissions Board in spectacular fashion. When asked which regiment I would like to serve with prior to having a second bash at the commissions board, I somewhat naively and arrogantly asked to go to the Black Watch, (in Hong Kong!), and in fact, "anywhere except the RHF Sir." That wasn't a clever move for on the following Monday morning I was on my way to join 1 RHF in Germany with all the trepedation usually reserved by turkeys at the beginning of December. You see, 1 RHF recruited from the City of Glasgow and Ayrshire and enjoyed a fearsome reputation both within the Scottish Division and beyond. I very much doubted I'd be making a return flight. Most friends at the Depot concurred with my dark conclusion.
As it happens, I then enjoyed two of the best and most memorable years of my service. Of course the RHF were a feisty lot but if you were one of them you endured and enjoyed together. The humour was lightening quick and no matter how miserable the Army attempted to make our young lives with their incessant interruptions in our enthusiastic pursuit of good beer and girls, the Jocks had a quick and easy way of making light of occasional hardship. It has ever been the way.
In a week when a former 1 RHF soldier, Corporal John Moore, will be laid to rest having been killed in action whilst serving with 1SCOTS in Afghanistan, my thoughts can't but wander back to my days as a Jock.
Coincidentally, a friend has resurrected a song he wrote 30 years ago when we were young soldiers in Northern Ireland. It became a sort of anthem at the time but it still has resonance now for anyone putting his kit on and leaving to patrol in bad places. Certainly, anyone who patrolled on those dank, driecht and damp nights in the hedgerows of Armagh will recognise the sentiment.
Dick has now morphed into a cross between a sixties folk singer and Billy Connelly but my thanks to him for bringing the memories back - feel free to pass the link on.